A certified nurse midwife offers 10 most important tips for a healthy pregnancy, ranging from the best foods to eat for your developing baby to the reasons to have regular sex during pregnancy. If you’re not a glowing and ecstatic pregnant woman, you’re not alone! Pregnancy triggers an eruption of hormones that alters moods dramatically and quickly.
Most women need something like a Nature Made Prenatal MultiVitamin + DHA that also contains iron, to meet increased needs for iron. The amount of iron you need depends on your iron stores going into pregnancy – which is another thing your health care provider can help you with.
Pregnant women should take a prenatal multivitamin fortified with folic acid – but not in a hard pill form. “Most multivitamins are hard tablets, and you only absorb 25% of the minerals and vitamins in a hard tablet,” says Melissa Rexer, RM, CPM, a certified nurse midwife. “Instead, we recommend liquid, capsule, or chewable multivitamins.” Consider other supplements as well, such as vitamin D (4,000 IU per day). How do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin D naturally, from the sun? Ask your health care provider to check your vitamin D levels.
“Mood swings are one of the most surprising things women experience when pregnant,” says Melissa. “You hear about post-partum depression, but few people talk about anti-partum depression (feeling depressed during pregnancy). It’s a chemical imbalance that can even happen to women who haven’t had a prior history of depression.”
You’re normal if you don’t feel blissfully happy every moment of your pregnancy. Here’s how to make the most of being pregnant, so you can feel and look your best until the baby arrives.
10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy From a Nurse Midwife
Mood swings, fears, and worries are normal during pregnancy, especially for new mothers-to-be. These tips for a healthy pregnancy will help you retain a sense of control and power when your body is doing all sorts of crazy and amazing things….
Have lots of sex
“The more sexually active you are during your pregnancy, the easier labor will be,” says Melissa.
“Your body releases oxytocin when you orgasm, which has a positive effect on your mood, labor, and delivery. Sex can also give you more energy, which you may lack in the first phases of pregnancy. And, your partner’s semen contains prostaglandins, which softens the cervix and helps prepare it for delivery.” Being sexually active is also good for your heart, blood circulation, and sleep – not to mention your relationship with your partner. That’s why this is the first tip for a healthy pregnancy from a certified nurse midwife!
Get enough exercise
“There is a direct correlation between exercise and short labor: the more you exercise while pregnant, the shorter your labor will likely be,” says this certified nurse midwife. “Women can maintain the same activity levels as before they got pregnant, until their bodies can no longer handle it.” So, running a marathon in early pregnancy is safe if you were into running marathons before. It’s important to listen to your body – it’ll tell you what it needs.
Avoid the “eating for two” mentality
You need to increase your calorie intake when you’re pregnant, but you don’t need to eat twice as much! During your first trimester, you need about 100 extra calories each day. In the second and third trimesters, you need about 300 extra calories per day. If you eat a variety of foods from the four food groups (vegetables and fruits, grain products, dairy and alternatives, and protein), you’ll get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you and your baby need. This tip for a healthy pregnancy will help you get back into shape after baby is born, says this certified nurse midwife.
If you’re worried about diabetes during pregnancy, read Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy – How to Reduce Your Risk.
Stay away from certain foods
“When you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t eat anything that’s unpasteurized,” says Melissa. “Many health practitioners recommend not eating any soft cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert, or deli/sandwich meats. They may cause listeriosis (a rare but serious infection that is caused by consuming a type of bacterium).”
In The Well-Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook: Give Your Baby a Healthy Start with 100 Recipes That Adapt to Fit How You Feel, Karen Gurwitz and Jen Hoy encourage you to tune in to your body’s needs and give yourself permission to honor your food cravings.
Another fantastic cookbook for pregnant women is The 100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy: The Surprising Unbiased Truth about Foods You Should be Eating During Pregnancy but Probably Aren’t by Jonny Bowden and Allison Tannis. For instance did you know that anchovies are a healthy high-protein, naturally salty snack during pregnancy? Anchovies are a great food for avoiding feelings of nausea; and they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which foster baby’s brain development during the first trimester. This wasn’t one of the tips for a healthy pregnancy that I learned from the certified midwife – it’s actually in this book about healthy foods to eat during pregnancy.
Focus on healthy weight gain
You’ll need to gain a bit of weight – but not too much. How much you should gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. According to Health Canada, if your Body Mass Index (BMI) prior to pregnancy was between 18.5 and 24.9, the recommended weight gain is between 25 and 35 pounds. However, if your pre-pregnancy BMI was between 25.0 and 29.9, the recommended weight gain is between 15 and 25 pounds. Similarly, if your BMI prior to pregnancy was greater than, or equal to, 30 the recommended amount of weight gain is between 11 to 20 pounds. Finally, if your BMI prior to pregnancy was below 18.5, your recommended weight gain is between 28 and 40 pounds.
Don’t eat unpasteurized foods
Avoid these unpasteurized foods: non-dried deli meats including cold cuts, hot dogs and smoked salmon; undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood; raw, unpasteurised milk and dairy products; raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts; raw fish such as sashimi; shellfish such as oysters and clams; foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs; and unpasteurized juices, such as unpasteurized apple cider.
Melissa suggests eating no more than one tin of tuna per week and avoiding soda pop, iced tea and too much juice (to keep sugars low). She also encourages pregnant women to read labels. For instance, did you know that a glass of milk has 20 g of sugar? A great tip for a healthy pregnancy is to find ways to add calcium to your diet without consuming too much sugar.
Don’t obsess about eating organic foods
“As long as you wash conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, it’s fine to eat them,” says this certified nurse midwife. “You don’t need to wash them in a special fruit or veggie wash. ‘Organic’ produce isn’t truly organic because of current levels of pollution in our air, soil, or water.”
Again, says this certified nurse midwife, pay attention to your packaged food labels – whether or not you choose organic. “If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the food package, then you probably shouldn’t put it in your body.” This isn’t just a fertility diet or tip for a healthy pregnancy – it’s a great tip for anyone who wants to be healthy.
Avoid alcohol and secondhand smoke
Your unborn baby’s brain is very sensitive to alcohol. Health experts don’t know exactly how much alcohol it takes to damage a growing brain, but they do say no alcohol is the best choice for having a healthy baby. Regarding smoking – it’s not enough that you don’t smoke.
Studies show that regular exposure to second-hand smoke may harm you and your baby. Second-hand smoke contains the same toxic chemicals and carcinogens that smokers inhale. It is especially harmful to babies because their lungs are still growing and developing. This tip for a healthy pregnancy involves people in your environment.
Watch your prescription medications
“Ideally, you should check your prescription medications with the health care provider who prescribed them before you get pregnant,” says Melissa.
“Certain medications, such as Acutane for acne, should be discontinued a few months prior to pregnancy.” Talk to the health practitioner who prescribed your prescription medications to make sure they don’t affect your baby’s growth and development.
Take advantage of the free pregnancy resources
You probably have a million questions about cramping, spotting, nausea, ultrasounds, vaginal births, or other issues related to a healthy pregnancy. There are dozens of free, reputable organizations run by hospitals, clinics, etc that can help.
Resources for a Healthy Pregnancy
Power to Push in Vancouver, BC, provides a plethora of information about making informed birth choices.
Motherisk Hotline, run through SickKidsHospital in Toronto, offers a wide variety of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Resources.
If you’re not sure about multivitamins and minerals to take when you’re pregnant, read How Much Folic Acid to Take During Pregnancy.
One last tip for a healthy pregnancy: your male partner may not be as involved as you’d like – and that’s normal. “Pregnancy isn’t as real to men as to the woman who is actually pregnant,” says Melissa. “It becomes real for men after the baby arrives.”
I welcome your thoughts on these tips for a healthy pregnancy from this midwife, but I can’t offer medical or health advice.
May your pregnancy be smooth, and your labor and delivery be easy! I wish you blessings on your family.